UCOSP

Undergraduate Capstone Open Source Projects

Talkin’ ’bout my generation

Posted by jorygraham on 2009/10/13

While writing this blog post I’ve managed to check my email several times, respond to a new wave, carry on 3 separate Twitter based conversations, update my Facebook status, and play a move in Lexulous against my girlfriend (she’s beating me quite handily). In short, I think I’m a pretty able communicator; but if that’s the case, then why has it been so hard to communicate within my own team, and with the rest of you.

If there’s one thing that has characterised this course so far it’s probably been the lack of inter- and intra- team communication. I don’t think it’s a problem local to my own team, either. So why is it that in a world of plentiful real-time and asynchronous communication channels we’re nearly all having this issue?

I think it is due to, in part, the fact that we’re being graded largely based on our communication. If you treat every email, blog post, RSS feed, and IRC channel as though it’s an assignment to be handed in, you’ll be really guarded about what you say and how you say it. In an effort to not look foolish, you end up muting yourself. Subconsciously you might feel like every question asked results in marks being deducted, but that’s really not the case. A paper trail filled with questions is a million times better than no paper trail at all.

In the Real World™ you’re expected to ask questions, seek clarification and look for explanations when need be. No one is looking over your shoulder, scrutinising your every move. This course is probably as close to real world experience as we can expect to get as undergrads, so we should try to take advantage of it.

4 Responses to “Talkin’ ’bout my generation”

  1. John Peters said

    I think it is due to, in part, the fact that we’re being graded largely based on our communication. If you treat every email, blog post, RSS feed, and IRC channel as though it’s an assignment to be handed in, you’ll be really guarded about what you say and how you say it. In an effort to not look foolish, you end up muting yourself. Subconsciously you might feel like every question asked results in marks being deducted, but that’s really not the case. A paper trail filled with questions is a million times better than no paper trail at all.

    In the Real World™ you’re expected to ask questions, seek clarification and look for explanations when need be. No one is looking over your shoulder, scrutinising your every move. This course is probably as close to real world experience as we can expect to get as undergrads, so we should try to take advantage of it.
    When I started this course, I wasn’t sure whether to expect this or the opposite. Yes, people will want to avoid looking foolish, especially when there are marks on the line. On the other hand, if students were given the impression that they have to meet a “comments quota”, I’d expect to see people speak up unnecessarily and degrade the signal-to-noise ratio. Thankfully, I was wrong and that hasn’t happened (yet).

    Depending on what you end up doing in the Real World™, you still will end up being evaluated by someone. Chances are you’ll still be dealing with performance reviews, and people still worry about looking foolish even when marks aren’t on the line.

    While writing this blog post I’ve managed to check my email several times, respond to a new wave, carry on 3 separate Twitter based conversations, update my Facebook status, and play a move in Lexulous against my girlfriend (she’s beating me quite handily). In short, I think I’m a pretty able communicator; but if that’s the case, then why has it been so hard to communicate within my own team, and with the rest of you.
    Reading this line, I couldn’t help but think of several different Slashdot articles. Whatever works for you, but I know that the best way for me to get to work is taking out my wireless adapter.🙂

    • onitony said

      So we’d need a post-quota and still mark on signal? Either permutation seems like an artificial enforcement for what should be happening naturally in a group project.

      Yes, ultimately there are marks involved, but if they are based on the big-picture behaviours and results, and not the depth of technical analysis in this very comment, then maybe we can get past this hand-holding-by-professors mentality and just get some coding done😀

  2. […] Jory Graham wrote about how students use chat, email, Twitter, and Facebook updates obsessively for play, but fall […]

  3. […] why students who can’t go five minutes without tweeting or updating their Facebook status fall silent when asked to communicate with one another in a course. It’s puzzling; comments on the post […]

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